Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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We don’t often think about the smallest animals, like those that live in the soil, along with an untold variety of bacteria.  Soil is an invaluable resource, the organisms in it turn all organic waste back into plant food.  Today’s top story talks about how carbon finance can help protect it.  Dirt is the ultimate example in a circular economy, which is also talked about in the news today, along with the growing crisis in what to do with recyclables now that China is not accepting contaminated waste.

Top Story

The Dirt On Soil Carbon | Ecosystem Marketplace
Healthy topsoil teems with life, and on this planet, that means carbon. But as we churn through topsoil, we release carbon into the air, where it becomes carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. and lots of it: nearly 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the last 200 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here’s how carbon finance is helping to reverse that trend.

Climate Change and Energy

Virtual power plants are in vogue, but they can be like taking a sledgehammer to a nut | The Conversation
The fleet of small-scale solar systems, batteries and flexible loads in our electricity system will grow rapidly in coming years. But how to coordinate them efficiently in our complex electricity grid, and how to make sure their owners get a fair return?

CEFC tips in $6.5 million loan for Newcastle solar farm | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Newcastle City Council says it has secured a $6.5 million loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to help finance a 5MW solar farm to be built in the heart of one of Australia’s leading coal regions… It will be built at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre – on a capped landfill site that was once part of the Wallsend Borehole Colliery – and is expected to save the city $9 million over the 30-year life of the plant. The council’s electricity bill recently doubled to $4 million a year, thanks to soaring grid prices.

Cities Emit 60% More Carbon Than Thought in Embodied Consumption, C40 Report Says | National Geographic
The carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest cities is 60 percent larger than previously estimated when all the products and services a city consumes is included, according to a new analysis. The report was released Tuesday at the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton, Canada, and estimated the carbon emissions for the food, clothing, electronics, air travel, construction materials, and so on consumed by residents but produced outside city limits.

Cars buck falling CO2 emissions trend | BBC News
Britain’s carbon emissions have sunk to the level last seen in 1890 – the year before penalties were first awarded in football. In 2017, CO₂ emissions from fossil fuels fell by 2.6%. This was mainly driven by a 19% decline in coal use. It follows a 5.8% fall in 2016, which saw a record 52% drop in coal use, according to the green website Carbon Brief. The figure is doubly striking as emissions from cars have been going up. The analysis is based on government energy-use figures. The government will publish its own CO₂ estimates later in March. Last year, Carbon Brief’s preliminary assessment of CO₂ proved accurate.  This year’s shows that the UK’s total CO₂ emissions are currently 38% below 1990 levels.

Environment and Biodiversity

In Colombia, a national park’s expansion announced as deforestation progresses | Mongabay
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos affirmed that the country’s largest natural park, Chiribiquete National Park, will now be 1.5 million hectares larger. Chiribiquete is located in the heart of the Amazon but the accelerated destruction of the forests surrounding this protected area seriously threatens its conservation.

What Sea Slugs Can Teach Us About Saving the Environment | WIRED
Recently, 25 sea slugs were served an underwater buffet to study their tastes. Offered a choice of brine shrimp and hydroid polyps (small coral-like organisms), the slugs opted for polyps that had swallowed the shrimp—a clever caloric twofer. Using a novel feeding strategy, they were jumping the line in the food chain to devour their prey and the prey of their prey. Researchers dubbed this kleptopredation, using the Greek word, kleptes, for thief or cheater.

Marlborough weta have a taste for grape vines |
NEW ZEALAND – In Marlborough in the early 2000s, a then little-known species of ground weta was discovered, causing significant damage to vine buds in the Awatere Valley. This led to a decline in grape production caused and big problems for grape growers. Grape growers in the Awatere needed to get their heads around controlling these weta. A traditional response would have been to wipe out insect pests using heavy duty chemical bug sprays. But growers wanted a safer and more environmentally friendly option.

Red squirrel numbers boosted by predator | BBC News
UK – The pine marten has emerged as an unlikely ally for the beleaguered native red squirrel in its battle with the grey squirrel.  This is according to scientists at the University of Aberdeen, who carried out an in-depth forensic study of the relationship between the three species. The pine marten is a predator of the reds, but in areas where it thrives, the number of grey squirrels reduces.

Economy and Business

‘Down down’ and ‘cheap cheap’ are gone gone: why supermarkets are moving away from price | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – On January 26, 2011, Coles fired the first shot in what would soon be dubbed the “supermarket price wars” by reducing the price of its own-brand milk to A$1 per litre. Woolworths fired back, triggering seven years of intense price competition.  But now Coles has waved the white flag, indicating a move away from price-based marketing, to a focus on other attributes, such as sustainability, local produce and community.

Why you should pay a living wage | Sustainable Business Network
NEW ZEALAND – The Living Wage has emerged as a response to growing poverty and inequality. These issues continue to hold back many Kiwi workers, their families and our economy. The Living Wage concept is a very simple, yet such a powerful alternative. It’s the hourly wage a worker needs to pay for the necessities of life and participate as an active citizen in their community. It reflects the basic expenses of workers and their families.

Waste and the Circular Economy

6 things you need to know about the circular economy | Sustainable Business Network
NEW ZEALAND – Andrew Morlet is chief executive of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, based in the UK. He’s on a mission to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and last week he visited New Zealand to meet with businesses and government. He shared his insights at public events and in turn learnt about the initiatives underway in Aotearoa. Here are our top six takeaways from his visit.

Australian household recycling ‘at risk’ from China ban | SMH
Australia’s entire system of “yellow-lid bin” kerbside recycling is at risk from China’s clampdown on imported recyclables, state and Commonwealth officials have been told during crisis talks with the waste industry and local government. Officials have been warned of potentially serious environmental, political and economic fallout from the Chinese move because only months remain before stockpiling limits are reached at recycling stations and no viable alternatives have been proposed for Australia’s heavy reliance on the Chinese market for its waste.

See also: Waste collection suspended in two Victorian shires as recycling crisis deepens | ABC News

Politics and Society

World’s largest ivory burn delivered a strong message – but who received it? | CEED News
Media coverage of the torching of huge caches of ivory presented a strong message against elephant poaching and ivory trade, but many of those who needed to hear it most may not have received it, an international study has found. University of Queensland researcher Alexander Braczkowski said an examination of the global media coverage of the world’s largest ivory burn in Kenya in 2016, revealed that coverage disproportionately reached western audiences.

Trophy hunting and wildlife conservation: 5 essential reads | The Conversation
On March 1, 2018 the Interior Department announced that it will follow a case-by-case process for deciding whether to allow hunters to import trophies (body parts) from elephants, lions and bontebok killed in several African countries into the United States… These five articles from The Conversation offer perspectives on hunting and its relationship to wildlife conservation.

Food Systems

‘Progress and persistent abuses’ in Thailand’s fishing industry, says U.N. | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Fishermen in Thailand remain at risk of forced labour, and the identity documents and wages of some continue to be withheld, despite pressure from major retailers to clean up the industry, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday. However, the United Nations’ labour agency also noted that conditions overall had improved, both on fishing vessels and at seafood processing plants onshore.


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